New York Rangers: Predicting who will replace Derek Stepan

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New York Rangers
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Daniel Carrozzi-

The New York Rangers’ first line center will be Mika Zibanejad.

I think that Zibanejad will replace Derek Stepan as the team’s number 1 center. I believe that he will be given the ice time and deployment that Stepan had, both 5 on 5 and the powerplay. He won’t get as much shorthanded playing time as Stepan however.

It looks like Zibanejad will be able to make up for the loss of Stepan’s offense as well. Without losing roughly one-third of his season due to injury, he was on pace to score 54 points, one shy of Stepan’s total.

I believe that this is because the Rangers will have little choice but to use an in-house solution to fill their vacancy at 1C. Unfortunately, they won’t find one in this year’s free agent class. I do not think they are willing to pay the price to acquire a first line center from another team either.

In regards to the team’s center depth, I do think they will sign Joe Thornton to a two or three year deal. However, he will see reduced minutes and sheltered match-ups owing to his age and declining production.

The Rangers also have a propensity for signing a defensively responsible center or two each offseason. However, I also think that the team is hoping that newly drafted prospect Lias Andersson makes a huge push to make the roster out of training camp.